TAMPA, Fla. — Russell Wilson’s childhood visions became a reality Monday as he reported to the New York Yankees‘ spring training facility and donned the pinstripes for the first time.
Perhaps the highlight of Wilson’s arrival came when Yankees batting practice Group 2 took center stage. Wilson joined Yankees sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird for a few rounds of live hitting. Unofficially, Stanton paced the group with 15 total home runs, while Judge had 10 and Bird had eight. Wilson got on the home run leaderboard, too, eclipsing Sanchez by one with six long balls.
Although he took some soft toss over the weekend, Wilson, with his 31-ounce Louisville Slugger that had his name printed on it, said this was his first batting practice session in a while.
“This is what I’ve known my whole life,” Wilson said. “Now, I couldn’t just step on a basketball court. I wouldn’t be good at basketball, but baseball, it’s like riding a bike once you get back out there for me. It’s not an easy sport, though. It’s very, very difficult.”
Difficult or not, Wilson is enjoying being back around baseball.
“It’s definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Wilson said about putting on a Yankees jersey for the first time, with a nod to Babe Ruth. “I tried to get No. 3, but I think somebody had it already.
“Ever since I was a young kid I always dreamed to be a Yankee. I always watched them. My favorite player was Derek Jeter growing up, watching him, his professionalism and how he played.”
Wilson’s late father, Harrison Wilson III, was a lifelong Yankees fan. Before he died in 2010 of complications related to diabetes, the elder Wilson hoped his multisport son might one day play for his favorite team.
“I always told my dad I’d be a New York Yankee, and now I’m here,” Wilson said.
Although Wilson is officially on the Yankees’ spring training roster, he won’t be playing in any games. Manager Aaron Boone has stressed that Wilson’s primary duty is simply to enjoy himself.
Before stepping into the cage, Wilson fielded ground balls at second base. In addition to making routine throws to first, he also worked on his double-play pivots with shortstop Didi Gregorius. Wilson told Gregorius it was his first time taking ground balls in a year and a half.
“I told him it does not look like it,” Gregorius said. “He did not look rusty at all.”
Despite the circus-like atmosphere that Wilson’s arrival at Steinbrenner Field has created, he told reporters in a news conference that his appearance here was sincere.
“Some people always, for me, get confused on ‘is this just a stunt’ or whatever. They don’t know me. If you really know me, baseball’s been part of my blood,” Wilson said. “It’s been a part of who I am and where I’ve come from and what I’ve done. When you see me make plays on the football field, a lot of that’s a direct correlation to baseball.”
Although he wants his players to pick Wilson’s brain about leadership, Boone has kept his charges to Wilson simple.
“I don’t want him to feel like he’s got to address this or do that. I want him to kind of come in and just kind of be himself, and get to know us and enjoy himself. A lot of our guys will benefit from him being in camp. It’s exciting to see how excited he is about being here.”
Yankees such as Oregon-born Seahawks fan Brandon Drury are ready to see how this week unfolds.
“The guy’s a winner,” Drury said. “Whether it’s baseball or off-the-field stuff. Even mental stuff … I know he’s really smart and he studies the game and he cares.”
Wilson, who played college baseball at NC State, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies. The Rangers acquired him from Colorado in 2013. Wilson spent parts of two seasons playing Class A ball in the Rockies organization before he was selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft by Seattle.
“I’m going to immerse myself in everything that they’re doing,” Wilson said of the Yankees. “I want to learn as much as I can and also compete as much as I can.”
ESPN’s Jenna Laine and Jon Scher contributed to this report.
Corey Kluber strikes out 10 to earn 100th career win; New York Yankees get back to .500
NEW YORK — Corey Kluber handcuffed Detroit batters to gain his 100th career win with his most dominant performance since 2018, and the New York Yankees beat the Tigers 2-0 Sunday to complete their first series sweep this season and get back to .500.
Kluber (2-2) looked like the pitcher who won AL Cy Young Awards with Cleveland in 2014 and 2017, before injuries wrecked his 2019 and ’20 seasons.
The 35-year-old right-hander allowed two hits in eight innings, walked one and struck out 10 to reach double digits for the 47th time but first since Sept. 24, 2018.
He induced 18 swinging strikes — 13 alone on changeups that flummoxed an opponent whose season batting average dropped to a major league-worst .195.
In addition to the strikeouts, Kluber got 11 outs on grounders, two on infield popups and one on a lineout to second baseman Rougned Odor in short right field. Detroit did not have a single flyout against him.
Kluber retired his final eight batters, reaching the Yankees’ season high for innings, and lowered his ERA to 3.03 — down from 6.10 after his third start this season. Nicknamed Klubot for his robot-like demeanor, he even smiled when congratulated in the dugout after his final inning.
Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth that included Detroit’s lone flyout to remain perfect in six save chances.
The Yankees finished a three-game sweep and with eight wins in 11 games improved to 14-14, its first time at .500 since they were 5-5.
Detroit has lost five straight and 10 of 11, dropping to a major league-worst 8-21. The Tigers started just one hitter with a batting average higher than .226, Jeimer Candelario, and Detroit batters struck out 12 times, increasing their total to 305 in 29 games.
Jose Urena (1-4) was nearly as good as Kluber but was hurt by the smallest of margins.
Gio Urshela reached leading off the second on a dribbler that nicked third base for a single. Urena walked slumping Aaron Hicks, and Kyle Higashioka hit an RBI double that kicked up the chalk on the left-field foul line. Brett Gardner followed with a sacrifice fly to the right-field warning track.
Urena allowed two runs and three hits, struck out seven and walked one, retiring his last 17 batters in yet another game this season in which pitchers exceled.
Catcher Jacob Nottingham hits homer in first at-bat after being reacquired by Milwaukee Brewers
Nottingham hit a home run off Los Angeles Dodgers starter Julio Urias to lead off the third inning Sunday in his first at-bat of the season, though it only cut the Brewers’ deficit to 9-1 after a rough start.
Seattle had claimed Nottingham off waivers from Milwaukee last week but then designated him for assignment. The Brewers announced Sunday that they acquired him for cash.
“We just needed to bring another catcher into the organization, and somebody with familiarity works out great,” manager Craig Counsell said before Sunday’s game.
Nottingham, 26, was playing in his first major league game Sunday. He hit .188 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 20 games last year. He has a .203 batting average, .306 on-base percentage, five homers and 17 RBIs in 38 career games.
“He knows our group,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “He knows our organization. It made sense to be able to bring him back and plug him right in there.”
Mario Feliciano, who made his major league debut Saturday and scored the winning run in a 6-5, 11-inning victory over the Dodgers, was optioned to the Brewers’ alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Los Angeles Dodgers put RHP Dustin May on 10-day IL with arm injury
May left Saturday’s start against the Milwaukee Brewers after just 27 pitches due to the ailment and is expected to have an MRI on Monday.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said May felt “kind of a shooting sensation” through his arm on a curveball he threw in Saturday’s extra-innings loss.
In five starts this season, the 23-year-old righty is 1-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 35 strikeouts.
May beat out David Price for the fifth spot in Los Angeles’ rotation coming out of spring training.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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